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Five Minutes With… Christopher vom Berg

The World BioEconomy Forum awards are designed to promote the incredible work going on in the circular bioeconomy in the fight against climate change and to create a carbon neutral world. We are delighted to bring you an interview with Christopher vom Berg, Deputy Head of Economy and Policy, Sustainability Assessment, Policy and Strategy at the nova-Institute. The institute recently received the Forum’s Bio Act of the Year Award for its Renewable Carbon Initiative. Christopher has been with the nova-Institute since October 2017 and works actively on the Renewable Carbon Initiative. He conducts life cycle and sustainability assessments on bio-based products and materials.

Can you describe your company and where it fits in when talking about the circular bioeconomy?  

The nova-Institute is a science-based consultancy and our focus is on what we call “renewable carbon” for the chemical and materials industries. Our original focus when the initiative was formed 25 years ago was biomass in the bio-based economy and how we can help the industry to bring more biomass into products, chemicals, and into the materials sector. We have branched out a little in the last 5 to 10 years; we are now also looking at direct utilization of carbon capture utilization (CCU) and chemical recycling but also combining the bioeconomy together with the circular economy and achieving a circular bioeconomy, that’s always at the heart of what we do.

 

Can you describe the renewable carbon initiative a little bit further?

At the end of 2020 we at nova-Institute decided that it makes sense to push for an initiative that develops the renewable carbon concept. We came together with 11 founding member companies and created the Renewable Carbon Initiative in September 2020 and today we already have more than 30 members from the chemical materials sectors who are part of our base and help us drive the initiative. The main idea of this is to transform the raw material base of the chemical materials industry to switch from a currently fossil-based system, fossil carbon, to a system that is based on renewable carbon.

 

How is the Renewable Carbon Initiative progressing?  

Progress is amazing to be honest, we have a lot of interest with many very active companies with lots of ideas of what to do and how to do it. We also see that the idea that we are proposing is being picked up outside of the initiative, so there’s a lot of interest for companies who feel like this is a good idea.  Added to this we also slowly see policymakers and the public picking up the idea and the concept, so we are very happy.

 

Can you tell us how you feel about receiving this award, and perhaps the reasons why the initiative won?

For us personally we were totally surprised to receive the award mostly because the initiative for which we got the award has only existed for a year, and we very much feel like we’re still gearing up. In the first year we mostly were about bringing the idea out there and getting people and companies behind u. Now we are actively starting to work on activities, strategies and papers to really put the concept out there.

So, for us it was a quite a surprise but a very welcome one. When you ask for the reasons why we think we won we do think that the concept is very unique in regards to the simplicity; using the initiative it’s very easy to align with different sectors of the chemical industry with different targets and approaches.  

 

Taking a more general view, how do you see the importance of the circular bioeconomy when it comes to the health of the planet and the mitigation of climate change?   

The mitigation of climate change by way of utilizing a circular bioeconomy is essential in my eyes for multiple reasons.  There are two major causes of climate change; greenhouse gas emissions that get released into the air mostly based on fossil carbon we take out of the ground and then burn for energy or material purposes; and land use changes that lead to the emission of additional carbon from trees and released from the soil. In both of these issues, the circular bioeconomy can address and help; on one side with the sustainable sector the bioeconomy helps with land use issues ensuring that we manage our land properly and sustainably; and on the other hand for fossil resources that get released by the circular bioeconomy is one of the alternatives through wide renewable raw materials instead. So in regards to climate change to sector by economies essential but also thinking little further not only climate change when you look at the sustainable development goals we think that the circular bioeconomy is a very relevant pillar to support goals like life below water and on land, looking at biodiversity in particular, but also zero hunger is one of them one essentially go provide food for the people good health also based on the proper food and also clean water. So, there are many other sustainability goals for the circular bioeconomist central and where we think it’s in crucial part that it has to play in a future sustainable income.

 

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